I speak with musicians and artists almost every day to try and help them along the path to rock and pop stardom, but the fact is that many up and coming artists are struggling to make it and, therefore, can not afford legal fees of an entertainment lawyer. I always keep my fees as low as possible to help people gain access to the legal help they need, but it is not always enough.

If you are a band, singer, or musician, on the brink of stardom, you should know that I can be retained on a contingency fee basis. You may be familiar with contingency fees in personal injury cases. The attorney will not paid or compensated until you are compensated. In the case of personal injury the compensation comes from a settlement or jury verdict, in the case of entertainment law, the compensation comes from advances on recording agreements, or other contractual payments. The percentage is lower than that typically used in personal injury cases. Under such an agreement, I will review all contracts, negotiate favorable terms, use my contacts to help further your career, and ensure that your best interest is protected.

If you have been offered a recording contract, production agreement, licensing agreement, or any other contract in the music industry, it is imperative that you have an entertainment attorney review any document before you sign. Just this morning I spent an hour speaking to a client who asked me to review a recording contract only to find that there were a number of problems and unjust provisions. No matter how badly you want to make it big, you absolutely can not blindly sign a contract. The music industry is extremely complex and record labels and producers are not looking out for your best interest. An experienced entertainment lawyer, such as myself, familiar with the complex language of the music industry is your best option.

The Federal System has long maintained extremely disparate punishments for crack cocaine possession as opposed to powder cocaine possession offenses. This week the House of Representatives has passed the Fair Sentencing Act and it is expected to eventually become law.

The original Controlled Substances Act (21 USC 841) established minimum sentences for crack offenders that are 100 times more harsh than sentences for powder cocaine offenders, even with the same weight of drugs involved. In practice, that meant that a person facing sentencing for 5 grams of crack cocaine, a minimum 5 years, was facing the same sentence as a person carrying 500 grams of powder cocaine.

While no apparent reasoning exists for the disparity, recent claims that the current sentencing guidelines are racist have forced legislators to review their drug sentencing guidelines. White drug users are much more likely to be arrested for powder cocaine possession, whereas African-American drug users are more likely to be arrested for crack cocaine possession. As a result, black convicts faced much more strict sentences than their white counterparts for essentially the same crime.

The United States Supreme Court even ruled in Kimbrough v. U.S., that judges could sentence defendants below the sentencing guidelines for crack offenses. The new bill will reduce the disparity from 100 to 1 to approximately 18 to 1. It is a minor victory in reducing the sentencing disparities for crack possession versus cocaine possession.

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A dog bite can range from a minor scratch to a fatal mauling. No matter how serious the severity of the dog bite, any animal attack can be a traumatic experience. The law surrounding dog bites and negligence may be unclear and some may wonder how you can be compensated for an animal attack.

Rhode Island State Law is quite clear on the matter. If a dog bite occurs outside of a pet’s enclosure (i.e. outside the home in a public park or on a sidewalk) then the owner of the pet is strictly liable for any and all injury that the dog causes. Strict liability means that the circumstances as to why the attack occurred are irrelevant – the owner is always responsible!

If the attack occurred inside the home (the pet’s enclosure) then the homeowner is not necessarily liable. This may be a surprise to many people who think that a homeowner is obligated to control his pet at all times. However, if the pet is inside his enclosure and the owner has no reason to believe that the pet is a danger to anyone (i.e. the dog is not a pit bull, akita, or other dangerous breed, and the dog has never attacked anyone in the past) then the owner is not liable for the attack. If, however, the dog is a dangerous breed, or if the dog has bitten a victim in the past, then the homeowner is on notice that the dog is dangerous and is responsible for any injury suffered no matter where it occurs.

Massachusetts, also has very favorable laws for victims of dog bites. The owner of a dog is strictly liable for any attack on a person unless that person was teasing, tormenting, or otherwise harassing the animal.

In Massachusetts, the law also says that a child under 7 can not be responsible for tormenting or teasing the dog. Therefore, in Mass, a homeowner is always responsible for injuries inflicted on a child under 7. Tragically, children are the most common victims of dog bites. This may be attributed to the fact that children are on the same height level as dogs and because children do not yet understand the danger that some dogs may present.

The vast majority of homeowner’s policies will cover dog bite attacks and pay the customary personal injury debts including: medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering.

The amount paid to a victim for pain and suffering also includes compensation for scarring which is, unfortunately, a common result of a dog bite. The value of a scar depends on many variables, including but not limited to, the location on the body and the severity and length of the scar.

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I had a new client come in yesterday morning who was severely injured in a motorcycle accident. He very rarely rode the motorcycle and did not maintain insurance on the bike or have a current registration. He was concerned that because his bike was unregistered and uninsured that he would be found at fault for the accident.

I thought that this is a question or concern that other people might have and decided to write this post. The short answer is that the insurance and registration status of a vehicle has nothing to do with a liability determination. Liability is a complex determination made by asking whose negligence ultimately caused this accident. In other words, which driver failed to act with due care and caused the accident. This determination does not consider the insurance or registration of a vehicle or motorcycle.

My client was 100% not at fault for this accident. That said, I certainly do not recommend operating a car or motorcycle without proper insurance and registration. For one, you will be subject to fines from the police. Even though you are not at fault for the accident, it is against the law to operate an uninsured and unregistered vehicle, and you will have to pay the consequences.

Also, if my client maintained an adequate insurance policy he might have had underinsured motorist available to him. Underinsured motorist is much like uninsured motorist. In the case of underinsured motorist, if the at fault driver does not have enough insurance coverage to compensate for the serious injury, you can then turn to your own insurance policy to cover the gap. That is why it is imperative not to cut corners with your insurance policy because you never know when you will need it.

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Every Public Defender’s office in the Country is overloaded with too much work and struggle to effectively represent their clients. Armed with only tight budgets and short staffs, public defenders work tirelessly to try and effectively defend the poor arrested for misdemeanors and felonies. Today, the American Bar Association has reported that one public defenders office in Missouri has been forced to stop taking new clients.

The department hopes that this will be a temporary measure but this is not the first time that they have had to shut their doors. It is still unclear what will happen to newly arrested clients who need public representation. The story also fails to report how many cases each Missouri public defender was handling and what number of cases became one too many. I have previously discussed the extraordinary number of cases that Rhode Island public defenders handle including over 1500 misdemeanors per year and several hundred felonies!!

The greatest criminal defense attorneys in the world simply can not handle that type of caseload with the aggressiveness and efficiency that criminal defense requires. That is why it is important to hire a private attorney if you have been arrested for a misdemeanor or felony in Rhode Island or Massachusetts. The public defenders may be highly capable attorneys but they simply have no time to afford your case the attention it deserves.

If you have been arrested for DUI, marijuana possession, disorderly conduct, or more serious charges such as cocaine and heroin possession, assault and battery, or breaking and entering, it is imperative that you contact my office right away so that we can begin to aggressively defend your case and work towards a dismissal.

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Margaret Marshall, who delivered the opinion in Goodridge v. Department of Public Health, 798 N.E.2d 941, has announced that she will be stepping down from her post on the Court. Unfortunately, Justice Marshall’s husband has been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease and she will be stepping down to care for him.

Justice Marshall will be well remembered for the Goodridge decision which was a State and National landmark decision. Writing for the majority, Chief Justice Marshall said that the State may not “deny the protections, benefits and obligations conferred by civil marriage to two individuals of the same sex who wish to marry.” In so ruling she also stated that “The right to marry is not a privilege conferred by the State, but a fundamental right that is protected against unwarranted State interference.” Constitutionally it was determined that there is no rational basis to deny same sex couples the right to marry.

Regardless, of political or moral bent, It was a courageous and important decision. Advocates for same sex rights hoped that this State decision would lead to a National right to marry for same sex couples. Unfortunately, the decision seems to have created as much tension as it has freedoms.

It has been an exceptionally difficult month for Massachusetts State troopers. In the past five weeks alone, five state troopers have been injured on duty by drunk drivers. In one case, Sgt. Doug Weddleton was killed in an accident caused by a drunk driver. In the most recent incident, a thirty-three year old Massachusetts trooper was injured while writing a ticket for an uninvolved Brockton woman, Fatima Baptista.

In light of this increased string of drunk driving incidents, the Massachusetts Police Union is seeking extra patrols on the roads to identify impaired drivers before they cause injury. The union believes that more patrols will increase drunk driving arrests and keep dangerous drivers off the road.

It is important to remember that .08 is not a very high standard for DUI, but it is the law in Rhode Island and Massachusetts. Even a few drinks can impair your ability to drive and subject you to arrest for drunk driving. Additional penalties will be added to your case if you injury, or God forbid, kill someone while operating under the influence.

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The Rhode Island Court System saw a decline in both civil and criminal cases in 2009 as compared to 2008. The number of civil jury verdicts was down as was the number of Superior Court felony filings. To no surprise, the Worker’s Compensation Court also saw a heavy decrease in activity. Given that 10-15% of the State is unemployed, one would expect to see a drop in work-related injuries.

Unfortunately, there was an increase in domestic abuse filings. This may be attributed to our poor economy and high level of unemployment. The current atmosphere creates high level of family tension and drives some people to drink heavily which can lead to an increase in domestic abuse. The Supreme Court also saw an increase in the number of appeals filed.

Some numbers from the annual report are available here.

Several hundred RI women were implanted with non FDA approved IUD devices (a form of birth control) at some of the biggest OB-GYN practices in the State. It is a story that I have written about in the past and which seems to continue to grow. An up to date list of doctors who used non FDA approved IUD devices is available from the Rhode Island Department of Health.

Today I had the pleasure and good fortune to be interviewed by Rhode Island Lawyers Weekly as they prepare an article on this very subject. We discussed whether the actions of these doctors amounts to medical malpractice and what options the victims may have in seeking compensation. Any medical malpractice case requires both medical negligence and damages. While the facts surrounding this story suggest medical negligence, the extent of the injuries sustained has yet to be determined. I believe that this is a medical battery and a procedure performed outside of the scope of the implied consent. Therefore, there is some value in the case, but it may not be a lot of money.

What these doctors need to fear is a patient coming forward who became pregnant while on the non approved IUD device. In that medical malpractice claim for unwanted pregnancy, the doctor or facility is potentially liable for the entire cost of raising that child to the age of majority which as we all know is hundreds of thousands of dollars.

As I continue to tell the female victims who call my office: 1) contact the RI Department of Health; 2) contact a primary care physician or other trustworthy OB-GYN; 3) seek alternate forms of birth control and do not rely on the IUD device because it may fail.

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The Study which appears in the Journal of the American Medical Association shows that many doctors will not report their colleagues who are clearly unfit to practice medicine. Doctors are able to report to work drunk or while addicted to drugs with little fear of retribution. Even outright incompetence is rarely reported by other doctors.

In the study, 17% of the doctors surveyed had DIRECT knowledge of an incompetent or drug addicted physician in their workplace. Of those doctors, one third failed to report their knowledge to superiors. Among the reasons given for failing to act: belief that someone else will take care of it; that nothing will be done; retribution for being a whistle blower. One fifth of all doctors having direct knowledge of drug or alcohol abuse is a very large number. The number of physicians who may suspect that their colleague is on drugs or incompetent will be much higher.

The American Medical Association holds that it is an ethical requirement for any doctor with direct knowledge of mental impairment or incompetence of another doctor to report such knowledge. Unfortunately, too many incompetent doctors continue to work every day.

Despite extensive training and preparation, doctors do make mistakes every day leading to medical malpractice.

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